A few weeks ago, I had the huge blessing of attending World Youth Day in Poland, with a group of youth from our diocese. World Youth Day is a pilgrimage that occurs every three years, when Catholics from all over the world, many in their high school or college years, travel to a chosen destination for five days of worship, education (in faith and culture), celebration and comradery. And, of course, to be with the Pope.
This year, nearly 2 million of us from over 180 different countries gathered together in Krakow, where Pope St. John Paul II was Cardinal Archbishop before he was elected Supreme Pontiff. The experience was incredible – spending a week a sea of brothers and sisters in the Faith, praying and singing together, cramming onto buses and trams that were bursting at the seams with joyful Catholics, making new friends every day.
The joy of Christ was present in an amazing way in all the pilgrims who gathered in Poland. “Have no fear,” as John Paul II always told us – the young Church is full of life.
The following is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ encouraging words to nearly 2 million young people during a prayer vigil centered on Eucharistic Adoration:
The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes” but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. It only takes players on the first string, and it has no room for bench-warmers. Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark. History today calls us to defend our dignity and not to let others decide our future. As he did on Pentecost, the Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience; he wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands to continue building the world of today. And he wants to build that world with you.
You might say to me: Father, but I have my limits, I am a sinner, what can I do? When the Lord calls us, he doesn’t worry about what we are, what we have been, or what we have done or not done. Quite the opposite. When he calls us, he is thinking about everything we have to give, all the love we are capable of spreading. His bets are on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus is pointing you to the future.
So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well…
Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness. Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?
The next World Youth Day will take place in Panama in 2019. Who wants to go? – Fr. Josh